First things first: I know Africa is not a country. By the way, Africa is the second-largest continent in the world, and the second-most-populous one too, so you can try to imagine the diversity people are dealing with when they talk about "Africa", even without considering its ancient history. Talking about it does not get any easier when you mix "literature" into the discussion, and I am quite aware of that. Think of this post as a very brief scratching of the surface of this vast universe that can be found under the umbrella of "African Literature".
1 – It is way older than the Colonial period.
We tend to ignore Africa when it is not about poverty, hunger or epidemics, so, for most people, it is quite a shock to discover that Africa has a very rich and diverse literature, and that the literary production has been there for a very long time, a time that preceded by a lot the arrival of the Colonialism. The Epic of Sundiata, for example, dates back to the 14th century, telling the story of the Mali Empire founder, Sundiata Keita. There is also the University of Timbuktu – an institution that existed around the 12th century and only started to decline at the end of the 16th – accounted for the production of 300,000 or more manuscripts in a huge spectrum of subjects and several different languages. Oh, just so you know, Timbuktu really exists, you can find it on Google Maps.
2 - The list of notable novelists includes 120 writers.
Yes, it is a Wikipedia list and that is not exactly the most academic and critically acclaimed place, but that may be the main reason why we should look at it to begin with, since the academy and the critics have been going out of their way to ignore Africa for a very long while. This list includes more than 200 novels, from several different African countries. On poetry, the list covers 55 names, also from all over Africa.
3 – It is a multilingual universe
According to Edmund Epstein, African languages may be over 3,000. Can you imagine that? Most African countries are officially multilingual and most Africans can speak at least two tongues. Of course this influences their literature, giving it an amazing foreign feeling, but there is more to it than that: a great deal of the books is published in the European languages that exist in Africa – English, French, Portuguese, etc. – which make it very accessible to the West, so there are no excuses for you not to read them.
4 – The other side of the story
Adichie’s TED Talk about the danger of a single story raised awareness for this topic in 2009, but this point is something we can never mention too much: the popular image of Africa is one that was built by the Europeans, with all their pre-conceptions and prejudices, mostly during the Colonial reality. How Africa tells its own story is a completely different matter, which should be taken into high consideration. Literature is the bridge that allows people to visit this other side and let them escape the one-sided versions of stories that they know. Literature is that bridge that can bring us closer to Africa’s history, identity, culture and, more importantly, to Africa’s point of view.
5 – Diaspora
One of the most relevant emotional crises of the 21st century is the “feeling of not belonging” that the globalized reality gives to some of us. This is one of the problems of the western society and it is wonderfully portrayed in a generous part of the African literary production. The diaspora – the scattering of people across a foreign territory – and its consequences represents this “not belonging” feeling beautifully, so you may find where you belong with the ones that belong nowhere, and find shelter in literature.
So, if you didn't notice by the giant image and the impactating quote, I am a huge fan of Patrick Rothfuss. Other than that, I am 23, brazilian, with a normal life full of dreams that are never going to come true. So, you know, the usual.
Final Papel *u*